Failed asylum-seekers face deportation back to Zimbabwe

Thousands of failed Zimbabwean asylum-seekers face deportation back to their home country despite reports of human rights abuses by the Mugabe regime.

The move comes after asylum judges ruled there was no evidence that those being returned would generally be at risk of harm.

Last night, the UK Border Agency announced that Britain would resume the forcible return of Zimbabweans whose asylum claims have been rejected.

More than 10,000 Zimbabwean failed asylum-seekers are believed to be in Britain, some 3,000 of whom have exhausted all avenues of appeal. The move will be strongly resisted by human rights groups, which have consistently warned of harassment and persecution of opponents of Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.

Amnesty International UK has warned that resumption of returns would be "premature", while the Refugee Council said it was "concerned" about the move. Last night the Zimbabwe Association urged asylum-seekers in Britain not to panic over the ruling and to wait for further advice.

The UKBA said last night that cases would be considered "on their individual merits and with enormous care". Matthew Coats, head of immigration, said: "We prefer people who are here illegally to leave voluntarily... for those who choose not to do so, it becomes necessary to enforce their departure."